Posts Tagged ‘U2’

When Love Comes To Town

July 21, 2009

Around once a year I get nostalgic for 80’s era U2 and pull out Rattle and Hum.  The fairly bizarre account of U2′s Joshua Tree Tour is always a fascinating watch.  Among the more intriguing parts is BB King’s assertion that “I’m awful at chords.”  That one of the most legendary blues guitarists of all time would be so open about this is surprising.  I know that King is best known for his powerful vocals and lead guitar work, but don’t we expect a little more out of our professional musicians? Perhaps not.  I don’t mean to belittle King’s body of work, which is astonishing.  It is odd, however, that he wasn’t concerned about appearing on film in this light.  Certainly it didn’t affect his career or his status as a Hall of Fame musician, but it did lead to a lot of jokes around my circle of friends (and likely others).

As for the film, which I have now seen about 30 times.  If you like older U2 music, it is highly enjoyable.  Some critics took issue with U2’s apparent desire to place themselves among the legends of American music.  Considering what they have become in the last 30 years, they weren’t far off the mark.  There is just somethign about watching a 27 year old Bono (incidentally the age I’m at) strutting around as a rock star on top of the world.  No one could reach a higher point of bravado and self confidence.

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A List For The Ages

March 19, 2009

Rolling stone gathers no moss, but leaves a trail of busted stuff.

Dave Matthews Band

Busted Stuff

There has been a little game floating around Facebook for awhile.  It is in the same style as those many email forwards that once clogged up inboxes.  Essentially, you are supposed to create a list of 15 albums that had a profound effect on your life. Rather than join in the perpetuation of tagging on the social networking site, I decided to fulfill the challenge here on my blog.  The original post gives some metaphysical mumbo-jumbo explanation for how an album can deeply affect a person, but I’ve decided to base my decision on three criteria:

1) I must have listened to the album more than 20 times.

2) I must enjoy virtually every track on the album.

3) The album must have some kind of story attached to it.

I actually found these criteria very restrictive, which is good, considering I own over 300 albums. Now to the list:

1. Simon & Garfunkel – Sounds of Silence – This album followed me abroad on a wild 12 day adventure from Paris to Rome.  Whenever I listen to it now I flashback to the many plane and bus rides, the horrible pink eye, and a quiet sunset in Sorrento.  I suppose I should also mention the many hours I spent wearing a hamburger box on my head. Sounds of Silencecaptures a band on the rise, just about to explode into the consciousness of an era. It is a musical masterpiece.

2. Coldplay – Parachutes – I came to be a Coldplay fan just a little bit later than most of my friends.  I really got into them about a year after Yellow flew up the charts.  I think i was too distracted by Radiohead to really appreciate this emerging group.  It makes the list because of the many cover versions of Don’t Panic that Dave and I shared while at St. Jerome’s.

3. Genesis – We Can’t Dance – For me, this is the quintessential nostalgia piece.  Growing up my family would spend many of our weekends driving around the countryside, enjoying the scenery and ultimately grabbing a hot dog at some out of the way stand.  The tape deck would usually feature this album or one from of my mom’s Rod Stewart collection.  This is the one I still listen to.

4. Radiohead – Ok Computer – I have to admit I first got hold of this album through less than legal means.  My friend Darryl copied it on to tape for me when it first came out (I think I owned 1 CD at the time).  I instantly fell in love with the group and spent the next 5 years buying every piece of recorded Radiohead material that I could.  I still have some ridiculous singles that feature bizarre remixes from this era.  While I haven’t been as crazy about collecting their music since about 2002, I still love Radiohead.

5. Peter Gabriel – Passion – This is a bit of a surprise entry. I have always enjoyed a number of Peter Gabriel songs, but it is this soundtrack album that moves me the most.  It was recorded for a movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, which I have never seen.  I used to listen to it while playing Age of Empires II and also while studying.  It was the soundtrack to significant parts of my first two years of university. The middle eastern flair, and desert feel make it a nice change from what usually fills the air around me.

6. Death Cab For Cutie – Plans – This album was given to me as a gift, in the hopes that I would embrace more indie music. It succeeded as I am now a full on convert.  I have a strong emotional connection to several of the songs, for reasons I’d rather not get into.  But I will say this, Plans is the only record that has ever made me cry.

7. The Who – Who’s Next – Another bit of nostalgia for me.  Like many people I know I had a huge classic rock phase in high school.  No band epitomized that period more than The Who.  Thanks to my mom’s already robust collection I was able to dive right into their music. Who’s Next contains most of my favourite Who songs, and doesn’t love the lovely cover art.

8. Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories – Tails – I truly fell in love with Lisa Loeb upon hearing her beautiful voice.  Fortunately, I’m a little beyond teenage crushes now.  The music, however, stands the test of time.  I will admit to being disappointed when I read that, although she was starring in a show dedicated to finding a boyfriend, she only dated guys over the age of 30. My personal favourite on this album is Snow Day, not only because my name is in it, but because of the line it’s a bad day, but you’re my medicine

9. Counting Crows – Live Across a Wire – I had to think long and hard about which Counting Crows album to include. They are all amazing and meet the first two criteria. So the tie had to be broken by the story associated with them.  Live Across a Wire makes it for a couple of reasons. The first is a girl named Shanna, who I absolutely adored during my first year of university. Although I was far too awkward to do anything about my feelings, we did share a passion for music. She adored the version of Angel of the Silences found on the MTV Storytellers portion of this disc, and for some reason, I still remember that. I suppose the second reason I chose this album is that I have been to three Counting Crows concerts and I count each among the most memorable nights of my life, for various reasons. From a magical night under the stars with friends, to being stuck in downtown Kitchener at 2am, to flying down the QEW ready to burst in anguish, it’s been a wild ride.

10. Dave Matthews Band – Busted Stuff – Busted Stuff hit me at just the perfect time. The summer it came out I was working at a Seniors home doing a lot of outdoor maintenance.  My coworker and I alternated music choices from day to day. On her days we listened to Eminem and Our Lady Peace. On my days it was Counting Crows and Dave Matthews. This album became the soundtrack to that entire crazy summer. We worked for two men, Atilla from Hungary, and Tony from El Salvador.  Their seemingly endless feud and crazy stories made the absolutely dreadful work seem tolerable.

11. Wide Mouth Mason – Wide Mouth Mason – I have already written an entire entry on this album. I’ll direct you there for more information about it’s inclusion here.

12. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois – Sufjan Stevens  epic attempt to record albums about each state is impressive.  This particular effort blew me away the first time I heard it.  He has a way of creating a surreal landscape in his songs that feels very comfortable to be in. I particularly love the remix of Chicago on the version I bought, but for maximum creepiness check out John Wayne Gacy, Jr. 

13. u2 – War – Much like Dave, I would be remiss to leave U2 off of this list.  Although I was hard on their new album I still love the old stuff.  I find that War among all the others represents the pure unbridled passion of the band, and catches them right before they became the world’s biggest band with The Joshua Tree.  War particularly brings me back to my university days.  During Winter exams (April) the weather starts to turn.  The snow melts and the sun warms people and places alike. There is a special feeling in the air when that happens.  There is also the anticipation of the summertime and freedom from school work. I will always associate this album with those feelings.

14. David Gray – White Ladder – David Gray essentially changed my life at the beginning of second year.  Or perhaps I should say that my life changed and his music was there. I embarked on a bizarre and often painful 3 year journey at that point. It dominated the rest of my undergraduate career and helped make me the person I was, and some of what I am today.  In the space of two months I purchased all of his albums and essentially memorized every song in his catalogue. Now that is devotion. 

15. The Verve – Urban Hymns – Originally, I wasn’t going to include this album.  I had some other ideas of ones that fit better or had more ideal stories.  But I was drawn back by the story of a band who was robbed of royalties by an unscrupulous man, and the life of Richard Ashcroft who went from the highest of highs, to the humbling experience of being almost forgotten.  This album is itself a modern wonder.  I don’t think you’ll find another recording like it anywhere.  Although they are considered one hit wonders in North America, The Verve will always be stars in my heart.

This has been a lot of fun. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the albums above, or any that have really moved you.

Boy, Stupid Boy

March 5, 2009

It’s a lifetime’s decision, recovering the satellites.

Counting Crows

Recovering the Satellites

Dave and I have been playing this fun game where we rank all of a group’s albums based on our satisfaction with them.  You can check out ongoing results on his blog.  It is really part of our on going debate about the future of music and the role of the album going forward.  While ranking the various albums of bands that I like (and you will probably see more of those in the near future)  I started thinking about the “why” of my choices.  Why was August and Everything After a 95, and Boy a 75?    It is probably impossible to compare those two albums to one another, given stylistic differences and the passage of time, but I’m going to use these two debuts as the basis of my discussion.  First the basic stats:

Album  Year   Tracks  Billboard    Singles     Sales

AEA 1993    11             4              4                7x Platinum
Boy 1980    11            63             1                 Platinum

It’s apparent that one of these albums was a highly successful, break out debut, while the other was well received but didn’t set the world on fire.  I think it’s interesting that after 15 years (the point the Counting Crows have reached) the Crows have not reached the same height that U2 had by 1995 (their 15th year from Boy).  Now given that the two albums came out 13 years apart you wouldn’t exect them to be musically similar, but I can draw some comparisons that help my analysis.

First the number of singles is telling.  There are at least two more stand out tracks on August and Everything After that didn’t become singles.  I don’t think there are any other songs that would be particularly popular, though I do believe that The Electric Co. is a better song than the more well known I Will FollowOut of Control found some life when it was played as part of their big Dublin show that became a DVD.

Second, I think one of the main differences between the albums is refinement.  The Counting Crows seem much more cohesive and mature than U2.  After these albums U2 certainly grew and evolved a lot more than the Crows, which is evident in their later works.  But at these points one was certainly further along than the other.

Although I do enjoy Boy there are a number of tracks that I either skip when listening or just get through. On August and Everything After I love eveyr track, and never skip one to get to the next.  A “95” album has to be one I would never dream of skipping through.  Having seen both bands live on multiple occasions, I know I am way more excited to hear a lesser known song from the Counting Crows, like Ghost Train, than I am to hear A Day Without Me.

The last point I would like to make deals with something that is less about music and more about circumstance. It is a fact that I heard each of these albums for the first time at different points in my life. I wasn’t alive in 1980, and wasn’t aware of popular rock music in 1993, so I reached each album later on.  The Counting Crows were one of the bands that dominated my high school years, and carried that dominance on to the present.  My interest in U2 peaked during my undergraduate career and has waned in recent years.  I imagine I put more weight on my CC albums because they are a bigger part of my musical identity.

This has been my attempt to explain the thought process I use to determine an albums satisfaction rating.  Don’t forget to keep an eye on Dave’s blog for more of these, and feel free to join in the conversation.

Onward and Upward

March 4, 2009

I’ll wait for you on the streets of tonight.

Doug Folkins

Streets of Rome

New podcast is now available over there–> This is the first of what will be several visits by my good friend Kern.  We had a two hour conversation the other day and I will be including bits and pieces in up coming episodes.  I apologize for the sound quality issues during the chat, but I have worked out the bugs for any future phone chats.  Skype was not being kind to me.

The show also features music by Doug Folkins.  He is an east coast musician who has worked with Juno winners, and plays a great brand of celtic meets country meets rock music.  You can find out all about him here. I will be reviewing his new album on a future podcast.

The next episode of the podcast will be up later this week.  I actually have a lot of material to use in the next while so expect shows to appear more frequently.

There has been a lot of chatter about the new U2 album. My friend Dave tackled it briefly on his blog, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has more to say about it.  I have only heard one full song and part of two others.  I am not in the least bit impressed with this effort. I also wasn’t a big fan of How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. My love affair with their music basically ends after Pop. But I implore you to go back and listen to the first 4 U2 albums. Boy, October, War, and The Unforgettable Fire are all excellent albums.  Theyare full of youthful exuberance, creativity, and passion.  I think U2 is entirely capable of creating a great album again, but I’m not sure if they ever will again.  Perhaps it is finally time to rest on their legacy a bit, and just tour. U2, get out there, play the hits, mix in some old forgotten favourites, and let your fans reward you for all you’ve accomplished.

She Walks Along The Edge Of Where The Ocean Meets The Land

December 10, 2008

If you don’t know, electric co.

U2

Electric Co.

Brand new podcast up tonight featuring the talented and hilarious James Clark. You can check out his work on the podcast of course, but you can also visit his site.  We had a great time and as always you can listen to the podcast on iTunes or over there –>.  I should also mention that the closing song on the podcast is called The World I Used To Live In by James of course.

I made a comment on the last podcast about the U2 song Is That All? sounding a lot like Electric Co.. While I still believe that to be true I should also acknowledge that the band used the intro to the former song as the beginning of a live performance of the latter on their Under A Blood Red Sky album.  Despite that I remain firm that the two songs are remarkably similar.

This post is what I’m going to call a Link Day.  The name should pretty much explain what that’s about.

I would be remiss as a friend if I didn’t point out this great video done by some of Iwona’s (of Toronto Research Blog fame ) friends.  They have entered a contest related to the Scene card. Their commercial is magic themed and it is very impressive.  It’s a long way from the stuff I used to make in high school, which while funny, lacked the cohesion of this piece. Check it out  and vote here. I don’t know what kind of prize they get, but they are poor actors/students so it’s nice to help them out.

If I can find the cable to my camera I have some pictures I want to share with the group. In the mean time you can always go to Dave’s photography blog. It’s currently loaded with great pictures and Dave assures me that once exams are over he will be back to posting all the time.

Short post because of the podcast. Thanks for your continued support and I will be back with more tomorrow.